The science behind New Year’s resolutions

Published: Jan 04, 7:01am GMT+0

What’s so special about New Year’s Day? Does it have some sort of magical properties that inspire or help us create healthy new habits? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Research published by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences demonstrated a “fresh start effect.” In moments that mark a new beginning, people feel they can wipe the slate clean, put past failure behind them and feel more confident in their future self. These moments include birthdays, job changes, the start of a school year, even Mondays. But New Year’s Day might be the most popular fresh start in the United States. How long does this fresh-start-inspired motivation last? Katherine Milkman, one of the researchers, says it depends on how big the fresh-start moment is. Motivation inspired by a Monday will wear off faster than motivation inspired by New Year’s Day. So, harness this fresh start and set a New Year’s resolution. If you need ideas, check out the most popular resolutions in 2020, according to a survey of 1,174 U.S. adults. You can see from the percentage of people who set each resolution that some intended to tackle more than one:

  • Exercise more, 50%

  • Save money, 49%

  • Eat more healthily, 43%

  • Lose weight, 37%

  • Reduce stress, 34%

  • Get more sleep, 30% 

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